JACKSON — An ad campaign aiming to promote travel to Jackson Hole in fall, winter and spring is focusing on a message to visitors: Help keep Jackson Hole wild.
The new emphasis on stewardship of natural resources comes after elected officials asked the volunteer board overseeing the campaign to shift in that direction. Originally launched last year, the campaign aims to draw in tourists with the promise of escaping a fast-paced, urban lifestyle to experience the “wild.”
“This year’s going to be a larger emphasis on what ‘Stay Wild’ means to the people who live in Jackson, and really a celebration of the efforts that have made Jackson Hole what it is today,” said Dustin Black at a Sept. 13 presentation to the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board. Black represents Colle McVoy, the Minnesota-based marketing team behind the campaign.
The campaign will call upon locals to “remember the conservation that made you who Jackson Hole is today, and stay wild, stay true to your roots,” Black said.
The campaign is being funded by the lodging tax, a 2 percent tax on visitors’ hotel stays. In fiscal year 2018, the lodging tax generated almost $7.4 million. Elected officials appoint the Travel and Tourism Board, a volunteer group that’s responsible for disbursing 60 percent of those lodging tax funds for destination promotion and community events. The other 40 percent goes to the town and county primarily to mitigate visitor impacts, including funding for pathways, START, the Teton County/Jackson Parks and Recreation Department and Jackson Hole Fire/EMS.
Last year, the tourism board allocated 38 percent of its funds — or $1.8 million — to destination marketing and paid media like the “Stay Wild” campaign.
At a June meeting where town and county elected officials reviewed the lodging tax board’s budget, officials, including Councilor Jim Stanford, asked that promotional materials better “reflect stewardship of our natural resources” and “strive toward sustainability,” as called for in the board’s mission statement.
“I don’t really see any expenditures really relating to directly promoting stewardship other than advertising that has some sort of messaging related to that,” Stanford said.
County commission Chairman Mark Newcomb agreed: “I do feel like a stronger message to the effect that your visit can have impacts, whether it’s garbage being added to the mountain of garbage we ship out of the valley, the wildlife you could be impacting, some sensitivity to the impacts caused by congestion.”
The lodging tax board took note and apparently passed that message on to its ad agency.
The campaign’s effort includes recently launched reusable “Stay Wild” bags that will be distributed to visitors deplaning at Jackson Hole Airport. Colle McVoy also has plans to place kiosks in the airport that remind visitors to “Keep Jackson Hole Wild” by riding START, recycling, giving wildlife space and staying on trails. Those messages will be further emphasized on tourism websites.
Another initiative will encourage locals and visitors not to tag locations of Jackson Hole’s “hidden gems” in social media posts.
“Social media allows you to geotag really specific places like the corner of Delta Lake,” Black said. “It allows for millions of people instantly to discover that hidden gem and overrun it. It’s not just you; this has become a worldwide problem. As people continue to hypergeotarget really special places, millions of people are trampling on the wildlife and animals to go to those places, and it’s ruining destinations.”
The campaign will ask Instagrammers who use the location tag to “Tag Responsibly, Keep Jackson Hole Wild” rather than geotagging specific beloved places, in hopes of helping protect them.
“You still get the social credit, but you’re not giving away the secret gem,” Black said. “There’s no reason Jackson Hole can’t be at the forefront of ‘How do we fix this?’ ”
Stanford said the board’s new sustainable efforts were encouraging and he looks forward to learning more.
“It’s a start,” he said. “Ultimately, I think we need to go much further than handing out reusable bags. But I’m glad that they’re giving some attention to it and using some of the promotional funds for this purpose.”
Colle McVoy and the tourism board are also pursuing “Stay Wild” retail items, like T-shirts, to further spread their message.